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tv   Siddhartha Mukherjee Discusses The Gene  CSPAN  July 3, 2016 7:30am-8:36am EDT

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this evening, siddhartha mukherjee. in 2001 with the pulitzer committee priest the emperor as inelegant inquiry at once clinical and personal. well, he's done it again in his new look, "the gene" which tells the story genetics by weaving science and social history with them personal narrative about his own relatives. i said recalled in the knowledge that, it it was so physically and mentally exhausted after al gore that he had to write another book, but the gene turns out to be a natural pairing with emperor, if sort of prequel he calls it in that it focuses on biological normalcy before it being scared distorted in the malignancy of cancer. if you've ever wondered how much
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of our lives is determined by her jeans versus how much depends on external environmental factors, you need to read sid's new book. but don't expect a simple answer because i do it here in a minute, it is complicated. a word about the past, as far back as just a couple decades ago, he was always distinguishing himself. then went to harvard medical school. a staff cancer position at columbia's medical center. that is going to be a conversation here this evening with someone who's obviously they'd use of their own genes. the co-anchor and managing editor at one of the most accomplished journalist and
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today. please join me in welcoming siddhartha mukherjee and judy woodruff. [applause] >> thank you, brad graham. no one's ever introduced me before i same could jeans. except when they were talking about my blue jeans. if you are captivated by the emperor of all maladies, you will be more than captivated by an intimate history. you like my microphone is a little bit loud. there's so many ways i would like to begin, but i think curing your personal story about why you would've completed the
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worst he worked on the book about cancer. a singer from brad, you said you exhausted by that. something else was going on about your own family and you write about that in a way that pulls every reader read the beginning of the book. what was going on in your life because your life that cause you to even think about writing this? interestingly, i conceived a "the gene" for a long time simply because as i was is, i have this crisscrossing history of mental illness in my family. i had to walk close. mama one with schizophrenia and one with bipolar disease. they actually died have in the us for many years. one of these uncle is lived with my family ,-com,-com ma was very much part of my family. and then, sometimes in my childhood, mike has said from
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all the same side of the family was diagnosed in institutionalized. the elephant in the room -- the elephant in the room could not go away, with not go away. my parents had elevated the museum, but they couldn't deny it anymore. especially my father couldn't deny anymore that this is very much part of his life. heredity component of mental illness. that's when we began to talk about it. so while i was in medical school, while i was all this history, the story was kind of in the back. it was like a bus that goes in the back of your head. am i exposed?
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am i vulnerable? who else is? is it a trigger that is missing our president, et cetera appeared this story was my story long before it can serve as my story -- became a story. in fact, when i finished writing , i thought maybe i won't write another book will be done. i kept coming back to this idea and as i said, it was like "star wars." a prequel to the sequel. >> you dedicate the book to people. we will get to one of them in a minute. one of them was your grandmother because she was involved in taking care of your uncle who were asked to say mentally ill. there is a powerful story there. there's a story by chicha just read a little bit from the start of the book where you were with her father went to visit her cousin. >> this is where we end up --
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this is where the story really begins. so this is actually the very first -- this is a prologue of the boat. the blood of your parents is not lost in you. in the winter of 2012 i traveled to visit my cousin monique. my father accompanied me as a guide and companion, but he was a sullen brooding presence lost in the english dimly. my father is the youngest of five brothers and the first born nephew since 2004 when he was 40, monique has been defined to have tuition for the mentally ill with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. he's kept medicated to wash in a sea of assorted antipsychotic sedatives that has two wash,
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bathe and feed him throughout the day. i father has never accepted the diagnosis. he has waged a campaign against the psychiatrist, hoping to convince them their diagnosis was somehow a broken psyche would somehow magically mend it self. my father had visited the institution twice. once without warning, hoping to see a transformed monets living a secret a normal life behind the gate. not that bothered me when i knew that there was more than just as ocular love it take for him in these visits. not the only member of my father's family with mental illness. of my fathers or brothers, too suffered from various unraveling of the mind. madness it turns out had said at least two generations in this part of my father select is to
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accept the diagnosis bias in the script recognition that some illness might be very toxic raging himself. that is the first paragraph of the boat. >> so it's in your family. you saw it right now. you heard stories about it. your grandmother was very much an influential figure in your life and you saw how she was towards your goal. >> he came to limit that's because he was no longer able to take care of himself. in this nuclear family, growing up with the aspirations of the nuclear family in delhi was also present, a remnant. >> for you, years later as a sign to us, just the idea that in your family youerdeahat in your family you were caught to thinking about this. and your family is one one generation of imacs,, but it
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wasn't everybody. it wasn't every cousin, certainly not you. but that was the impetus that you do think, you wanted to spend more time looking at the jean, the genetic mystery. there is a connection to cancer in the first book, but you are embarking on a completely different and ambitious story wanted to tell. >> you know, i published a small excerpt from this with a picture of me and my father. that was the first to a really wrote. for many, many years. the first thing i wrote once i finished emperor and i wrote it privately, didn't give it out to anyone. it was part of my feeling are grieving process. i went back to it and that
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should not accept this doesn't really we are faithful had it not been that i wrote back then. it's about family, which is by the prolog is called family. the idea of genetics doesn't come into it. it is a reminder that we think of the word gene and it seems to be sort of an abstract concept that life has had ourselves. people talking about laboratories, but family, she has to do is emily. it has to do with us and how you and i are made. who in this room doesn't have a relative affected by some elements which you can trackback to interaction between genes and environment. what about that a little thing, the six pages or seven pages, i said it was seven pages really about family. it's about ourselves or can it
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sounds that emanate about these things called genes. the >> you wrote this in before i ask you about some of the history here in some of the amazing features to write about, you write this with a sense -- i've got a real sense of urgency that he felt it was important to get this done now because there's a lot going on entire. you and i talked about this earlier today. you have a sense that it's important to begin to understand themselves, not to leave this up to the expert. >> that may give you a sense of what's going on inside that miss on inside that miss the help of have this conversation with over. we are trying -- we are going to read and write the human genome. let me explain what reading and writing the human genome and be a by reading, obviously all of you know in 2001, 2002, we
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obtained a sequence of the human genome. let's first define what the genome as. a genome is the entire repository of genetic information that is in yourselves, and an embryo and is written in four out of the codes, so you genome might create -- i'm not making it up. i have it memorized. but here's it's interesting about it. this goes on. if you imagine as an encyclopedia, this encyclopedia would be 66 full-size of the encyclopedia britannica. imap on the darker it got one of
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these, it would read -- it would be inscrutable to you and me. and yet, here is what is amazing. out of that seemingly excludable four letter code is you and me and everyone else. it's an astonishing fact that the code becomes you, small variations in some part of the difference between you and me. going back now to understand that the technologies allow us to do. number one is we are beginning to breathe that code and beginning to emphasize clearly and be able to predict what might happen in your future for some parts of the genome. what makes the, if you had mutation is a 100% chance of rescue her, but you risk of
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breast cancer may be 10 times higher than the women who don't have that vacation. if you have a cystic fibrosis gene mutation, from father father and mother, chances nearly 100% but you'll have that disease in your future. i can tell you that when you were an embryo. i could tell you from your embryonic cell chances that you have that disease is 100%, at better, et cetera. that's reading the genome and now it gets more complicated things. i could tell you more complicated things about illness. people have started to export illness. i could do complicated things about identity. that is already entering territory that we should have some moral concerns about. reading the genome is not only
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can i do that if we deem it, i can actually go now and make directional changes come intentional change of come intentional change of season on a set of technologies and learn to use as human and these technologies allow us to go in to the volume, pick out one volume, e. race one word in the encyclopedia and put it back and, leaving all the other 66 volumes of touch. it seems to me that once you've acquired these technologies, we need to talk about them. you need to learn about them. i need to learn about them. we cannot let this happen in the laboratory. last week there was a closed-door meeting at harvard are they propose synthesizing the entire human genome by sitting together some simple det
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g like a bead on a string. in other words, it is sympathize technology so soon become available it take the entire human genome and make it from scratch. we are not there yet, but all the technologies that allow us to get there are being assembled. this is the time to think about things and for me to think about until illness, for you to think about whatever illnesses and mechanisms of variation and identity that you may be interested in. this is the time to convert it. if you don't, we will give this unbelievably important piece of history and our future to people that we might not want to give it to. >> you in the book among other things read about it. not so long ago when the study of genetics was heading off in a terrible direction and we know it led to some horrible things
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on this planet. i want you to go back to a little bit of the history here. so much of what you describe state have been in the last 150 years. maybe the last month. it is humbling to know that aristotle was thinking about this and the information sat there and there was another couple thousand years before charles darwin started doing his work and after that some other interesting characters. there's some other signposts along the way of people who work of genetics to what they may not have even known was genetics but it all came together later to be critical. talk about an early work that was done. people know charles darwin. >> certainly what's interesting
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about it is that horse is a perennial question. since the dawn of human history, you can imagine the first questions is why do we look like a parent or why do we not look like our parents? these contradictions, and beginning again at these questions have been part of our dna forever. but in all districts of family, we ask ourselves why did it not strike my father or my mother and so forth. when two identical twins are born, we say why did they let the same and so forth. aristotle had a theory about this and begin to think about this very seriously. it is an astonishing fact. he was a very good biologist. >> which i venture to say most people didn't realize.
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>> yes. he's reading from my very particular glances. icm has a biologist secondarily. his philosophy is emanated out of his desire to tax on the minds, divide the world up in different organic forms. so aristotle realized, made the argument that what was really moving, what was transmitted across generations was message of some kind of message. he said it's a little bit like a carpenter shaping a piece of wood. when the carpenter shapes a piece of lead, he was talking about organisms are formed. he doesn't shape it in a material way. he turned that the information to his handiwork or her handiwork into that piece of
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wood. that's what happens. p. is transmitted information into the wet enough that makes it be whatever form. this was back in exactly the point of time he writes is. this is back in the day when people were debating about how god gave us so forth. there's a long sentence after that. one more highlight. for a while, people thought this is the greatest one of them all. in fact, this is so complicated. they said how wondrous can a fully formed human being embryos develop out of when a woman conceives, how could not possibly have been? they made the argument in the 1600s in fact a tiny miniature
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human being is sitting inside cover propped up like this. and about it carefully and it would have to be the case that since that animal, would also generate his own children, then he had to be sitting inside the binoculars. and so forth and so on infinitely miniaturized or murky light, which is a lovely idea, like russian dolls stretching out towards the future. but this is one of the most popular ideas about how we transmitted fakeness, which is of course the center of the gene. >> by what he figured out or what he thought about and share really kind of sat there for a couple thousand years. along comes charles darwin who did some important work and all
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of this. but then there were some others who came along who really were not appreciated at the time. one of them was a mob who you spend making some some really interesting pages on. >> it's a fascinating story. so that gregory mendel. gregory mendel really launches book and the modern history of genes because mendel realizes, it's very interesting that both darwin and mendel are monks. there was a time that people saw no contradiction between exploring the universe and its material form as well as having -- someone should force people to read darwin and mendel.
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the capacity and the compassion that brought to that individual scientific text duration. it's incredible. mendel who was a monk began to do extremely simplified experiments. that was his trick. he was a great gardener and his trip, fascinating insight was to simplify this morass of ideas around genetic. if i want to forget all about that in all of what to do was ready up almost monastic concentration, what happens to one or two via seven individual features across multiple generations. here were people talking about hugely complex experiments about human embryology and how we were
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on. that elicited a small monastery reset on what to do as massive as they move. he had no idea what these things were. at the end of it, just a mathematical reasoning, he realized there's got to be something come of units of information must be passing between the parent. >> he wanted to work with nice, but -- bias is a little bit too risqué. i spent some time in this monetary. it went to his monastery that had traveled to do you can get to it easily from vienna. i traveled over to the monastery
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in iraq. there is a a woman at the front desk. a set of come on this way. the birthplace of biology. it was like a pilgrimage for me. the monastery is closed. so i said -- i pleaded, i've come all the spare. all i want to do is be inside the library. she sent an application. who do i apply to? she said to me. [laughter] i'm from india. two can play at this game. i hereby apply to you. so she was defeated and she let me. last night -- last night i spent about four or five days going back and forth come they been in the library, looking at the first garden where he planted
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those peas that generated this thing which is now taken over the world. >> the work he does wasn't appreciated for a long time. in fact, he was scorned. at some point, they're a number of other important figures. remind us who came up with the term genetics. >> remember, he knows that he stumbled that once he stumbled, stumbled -- >> no, go ahead. >> he sent us copies of this or port. he went to 40 some pages from a center that's about the scholarly centers. >> basically said what is this crazy monk writing about and why should we be reading this and went time describing botany and physiology and figuring out how embryos were formed and their
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complicated risk. anyway, in the night to hundreds, gets rediscovered. soon after in 1909, we find the word she. they began to say to themselves of what got to have a word for this. we don't know what it is, we don't know what kerry said. the city structure of the cell? and then carries information. we know it's important and we've got to have a word for it. william beeson, one of the great defenders i talk about with the great picture him in the boat once the word genetics from generation genius, all of these threads coming together in coins the word gene or genetics and then his colleague says that is the discipline. we have to name that game and so
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they name it the gene. >> so it is good to start. there is progress and setbacks in more progress. you do an amazing wonderful job of bringing to life these people who really probably glad i'm extraordinary diets stuck in a labyrinthine office number writing and working. and then you fast-forward to the 19th of these two-watt event creek. before you get to that point, things really go badly off track. why did that happen? how did that happen? >> it's important to remember that because while the gene is being explored scientifically, the study of heredity of course has been on his every desire to manipulate heredity, there
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really parallel studies. it wasn't good with that in fact darwin's cousin invented the term eugenics. do not -- do not
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and sterilized on the pretext. >> there was no real evidence should any known -- >> books have been written about and is basically no evidence. if anything, she was a bit of a
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rebel. that was the worst of persons. >> you were saying earlier he felt it was onboard implement of the people you dedicate the book to come so important about everybody this is happening, it's not just nazi germany. >> yes. to finish up that story. it metastasizes begin and then those from selective breeding to selective sterilization to selective extermination. that's the final incarnation, which w we now remember to buy. remember it not the eugenics, you know, beginning people who had again mental illness, moving onto things like depression and told him i moving on to the racial and ethnic and human cleansing that the nazis brought to the full macabre reform. i put the right in the middle of the book. in fact, i want to construct a book with that idea.
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then i realized that, i wanted to start the book with the chairman episode but i realized it's much, much more chilling to watch it happening in front of their own eyes, that the road to that man is, the road to that was paid in progressive, by progressive feet. by desire to emancipate templates are for perfectibility, a desire to make ourselves better, and thus in less than 30 years in the extermination of someone who has a mild form of mental illness. >> i think relatively that could never happen again, but as you said, because of the incredible advances that are been made in such a short time, that people really still don't understand. what do you think the
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possibility is that decisions could get made right now or in the near future that not a repetition of some of the worst of what you describe but we could head off in a direction that might be very hard to turn around? >> i'll keep you all kind of examples. the one example indiana state some example from internationally, i think that, i personally think having read this story i think it's very unlikely we would have mandated form of eugenics in the united states in the future i don't think that's likely. what's interesting and much more difficult to contend with is that were entering an era of personal its eugenics in which we can sequence, this is going to be, this technology is available today, very soon you should be able to sequence, and people have done this already in other countries, every single gene of your unborn child. the question you do ask yourself is what we do with this
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information? you will not know what to do until you know what genes are. that's of course one arena that is important but meanwhile, let's not forget that the largest eugenics project is already going on in india and china. in some parts of india their 700 women to 1000. in human history there's never been this skew of the gender issues. that's eugenics project. fostered by science beginning with ultrasound diagnosis, ending up with amniocentesis and gender diagnosis through chromosome analysis, et cetera. ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the eugenics were we already part of the. it has been stabilized society, it has been stabilized the way we think about so it's not some
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other worlds problem. this is our problem. the faster we accepted at the more we understand it, the more armed will be enabled to mitigate against its effects internationally. >> it's clearly a case of the signs of being ahead of where governments, policymakers are prepared to make decisions. but how much of that is a practical effect writer in the united states right now? you talked a minute ago, said about the work that's been done to edit genes and what you just said about creating a person, synthetically. how much decide to talk about that what you are a scientist or so. how much do scientists sit around and worry about that, think about it? how much do they talk to
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policymakers? >> to think a lot. they worry a lot about it but the policymakers don't have the language to understand what the implications are often. the scientists don't have language. there's an important meeting which i describe in the book that happens in the conference when my mentor for many years, paul and several others discovered the technology to cut and paste genes together. in the 1970s. you want to know about price for this come and essentially it's relatively simple technology. you take one piece of the dna and cut it up using -- and just ditch them together with another enzyme, another factor which is used normally when you're dna breaks because of extras, say,
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you need to stitch them back together to maintain integrity. if you just combihesened ttwo pieces, you can suddenly start taking a gene from a frog and stitching it together with a gene from a virus. you can take teachings of any sort. this is of course incredibly important technology. after drugs are made this way. because it is universal you can take a gene from a blue whale and put it into a monkey or a monkey cell and the monkey cells will recognize it for all intents and purposes it was a motegi and make it as if it were a motegi. that's because we all evolved from the same original organisms and pusher the same genetic code. so when this technology was first created, sides got together and created an open meeting. journalists came. policymakers came. all spent months reading, so-so
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document but they all spent months thinking about, clicking all the information, learning the vocabulary. and then they meet which they said we'll put a voluntary moratorium for one year, last a longer, for when you before you forget what the next steps are because this technology may unleash biological catastrophe. so it is possible i think a lease within the united states to put moratoria on things before we figure out what to do. about two months ago there was a large conference in which they suggested they should become moratorium on editing human genes in particular kinds of cells. not every cell but in be on extend sells a certain kind, although that's unlikely to happen but certainly human embryos. meanwhile, to finish up, and meanwhile, there's an experiment in china that was published where they went ahead and tried to make genetic editing.
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they tried 76 embryos i think to try to make, defying spent what happens because we don't know fully the results because it was published all piecemeal and again nonviolence but the quick answer is in principle they could make genetic changes in human embryos. and what does that mean? >> that means in principle if you tweak the technology you could say to yourself that i'm interested competitive value might treat that in the real world, the chinese experiment is not a great way to do that experiment. but if you tweak that you could say i'm going to try to erase cystic fibrosis mutation for my genetic heritage. i'm going to try to erase or change mutational variation that
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causes alzheimer's disease from my heritage. and then the bazaars sooner you could set want to add information back to the human genome, which you do. you could add information to the human genome. >> we want to make people taller or something. >> i talk about this. it's important to realize policy or hide his genetic but least five or seven genes govern that. could you change 547 genes? maybe you can. at least now we are changing one but also as as a cejka at information back to the human genome. that's a surprising thing. we should take that very, very, very seriously. >> will go to be taking questions from all of you in just a couple of minutes but before we do, how do we make sure, be thinking about your question, but how do we make
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sure that this kind of work goes in the right direction and not simply s and we don't even wanto think about? >> has to be an international consensus, a national consensus on health. there will be an arms race, china, korea and india will start making genetic interventions. i outlined one possibility, one thought experiment. there's a famous thought experiment happened when the adam was been split, long before the atomic bomb was made there's a famous letter saying no such thing as atomic bomb but here's a thought experiment. walk just in your brain boxes process into landed with the unleashing of immense power in the consecrated manner. einstein even writes to the president and says this could create a weapon of great destruction. nothing has been made yet. it's just that you could walk the mental steps through a.
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i think we need to walk those mental steps first and figure out what the realm of possibility is. we need to walk those mental steps internationally so we can figure out again what the realm of controllers. i suggest a framework by which hopefully we can stick to before we enter an era we don't want to enter. >> we will take questions at the i guess i couple of microphones. before they come to the mic, when i think about what you do anything about the book you wrote on cancer and the work he did with public television, and i should say sharon rockefeller who was here was the president who worked with you on the film around, and ken burns, around the emperor. at i think i even have time to sleep? you are a scientist, an
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oncologist, you write books, you are a husband and father and you have a life. how do you do about? >> this book came out of such urgency that it had to be written. i sort of prioritized it over everything else. it took five and a half years. it seems a came up one morning, but it took five and half years. it took a lot of time. i spent a lot of time on a. a lot of us go back to these stores. i thought if i could just knit together the stories one after another, i would achieve the book. >> it's kind of extraordinary that he can get it all done. let's start over here, at i can't see very well but step up to the mic and ask a question. >> i will be starting school in the fall to study anthropology and a question for you regarding kind of along the lines of the discussion of exploring new
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frontiers of science. i know drawing upon the work you've done about genetics, i think we are starting to find a lot more information and evidence about the transgenerational transmissions and enhances of genetic information. i was wondering in the spirit of this conversation about understanding the ethical and social considerations of new scientific findings what goes with before intergenerational -- >> let me rephrase the question. the question is, we no genes transfer information across the generations but lately there's been a lot of interesting finding whether things have happened to you in the environment can also be transmitted across generations. the evidence for that i think is very, very minimal right now. it's a totally unexplored
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frontier. the famous experiment was the experiment in which he dismembered, gruesome, but he dismembered the tale of one generation of mice and waited for the next generation to be born and he kept doing this for multiple generations and not even one centimeter of tale was lost. so we know that a significant, as it were, is having a part of your body cut off, in the case of that foremost, does not register across multiple generations. it does that get transmitted. yet the are some inklings, for instance, starvation response creates changes that are transmitted across multiple generations in ways we still do not understand the it's a new frontier and, of course, the challenges, the classical models of a genes transfer information there were still can figure out what is it, what is the
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information that is being transmitted? what's amazing about it, i would just finish with this idea, what's amazing about it is genes actually protect us from that. genes were almost designed to wash away the sins of ourselves and our fathers. we reproduce and all of a sudden all the scholars and things went in our body are washed away and a baby formed a new. it's a very beautiful thing, very beautiful solution. but there is evidence now, again very detailed studies on starvation and others, and simple organisms, it seemed that some of affect across generations. we have defined out more about it. >> we will have to find a somewhat more cheerful aspects of genetics. >> my name is scott. for years without this dichotomy between genetics and environment in the cause of social behaviors even.
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i've always thought this was a false dichotomy. everything is genetic and everything else is influenced by the environment. really the question isn't whether something is genetic or environmental he caused, is whether or not how malleable is, can'can it be changed. having poor eyesight is genetic and yet we can do lasix surgery, we can wear glasses and it doesn't affect our behavior. it doesn't affect our genetic the discount whatever. really it's a false question and that's hoping you could -- >> i think it's not just a false question. i think it's a question that has led us in the wrong -- let me say what i think and to write about this in the book extensively. my thought is when someone asks the question is it nature or nurture? the first which we should be asking that is what are we talking about? what aspects of human behavior should we be talking about? argue some concrete examples. gender and enemy, the anatomy of
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gender, is strikingly genetic. there's one gene that governed for the most part gender and enemy. it happens to be the y. chromosome. if you have that gene to have one particular anatomy of gender and all the physiology that goes along with the. if you don't have that you love different anatomy of gender. how do we know this? because if you have some women, some women, the one gene is mutated. if you mutate that one gene, these women are self-described as women. they have most of the gender and that an intact. they're often diagnosed with a syndrome underdiagnosed because they experienced infertility. the gender and happening, strikingly governed by genes, gender identity, on the other
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hand, is a complex mixture. we know that. so the idea and a chocolate is the book, for the idea that now we've made a kind of armistice between genes and apartment is a fool's armistice. it depends on what level of party were examined. it depends on the question you are examining. it's amazing to me that in this culture, in 2016, the human mind cannot understand this simple idea, that some things can be strikingly dominated by genes, something silly strike would dominate by environment, and some things live in the middle. it depends on what we're asking about, so thanks for saying that. >> would you please elaborate on the recent developments in treating cancer with gene modification? particularly breast cancer. >> yeah, so right now all of
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these technologies, this goes back to the point we're trying to make him all these technologies can a very powerful effects and a lot of promise. one of the things the brain cancer one is when it comes very quickly to mind. there's a couple of very recent, important and potentially striking trust the gene therapy and brain cancer using genetic therapy to treat brain cancers. certainly, i'll give you the idea of genes being used in breast cancer as a rich history starting with a diagnosis. brac one amp rack you identified your cigarette ever changed the lives of women who happen to have that mutation. that antibody. gasoline make that antibody? the only way to make that is to take a human gene for an antibody and put in a cell using the same technique, and that's the way you can make the enzyme.
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when you talk about genes in cancer, they run the gamut from diagnosis to genetic therapies to the creation of new drugs. we would not be here and catch today were it not for genetics and genetic engineering in particular. >> thank you. how much promised the field there is in that area? >> it depends on which the rainy. antibody therapies for cancer one of the most striking therapies these days. we are doing more and more. again, would not be possible without genetic engineering. we would know what an antibody was, how our immune system work if it wasn't for genetics. genes underlie all of these really miraculous advances. >> yes spent another example. remember the distinction breast cancer? guess what those are.
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genes. it's a marker for certain kinds of cancer. if you did know the you would not retreat breast cancer. >> and the doctors, physicians have had tremendous very quickly. >> absolutely. very, very quickly. >> what do you make or how close to think we are to potentially get a cure for cancer, eddie think efforts like the president's cancer moonshot and others to try to get towards picture, how close do you think we might be? >> searcher is a coveted word in cancer. because it depends on the kind of cancer we're talking about. it has a very which history detailed in another book. [laughter] >> is just about what i think about moonshot, i think they're helpful in some ways and they can be hurtful and others.
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i think there helpful because they we focus our attention at a time when our attention spans seems energy generated. we are talking about what a thinker rather relevant issues when they're very curly focus issue we should talk about how to meditate our health problems, how to help ourselves, how to help the economy and so forth. rather focus on things that are constructive i think that allow us to rebuild faith in systems, whether they be federally funded or philosophically funded, systems that can provide medical transformation. i think that's very helpful. the flipside is that creates a certain cycle of hope and hype and people say they have not met the technologies can not ready yet, they haven't met their goals. i think the moonshot will be partially successful because it will allow us to clear out some cobbled have gotten in the way of medical advances in cancer.
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i think will be a backlash as well. dangers are tha so that will beg industry but said how dare we have said they should be a moonshot for kids. i think kansas will advance significant the next decade. i'm confident of that. >> we have time for two more questions. >> we been talking mostly about human genetics, but when it comes to policy and science being ahead of policy, my first thought coast to gmos. my understanding is there's a huge gap between what is the scientific consensus and what the public perception is. i was just curious in -- >> to be honest i did that cover gmos because i think it deserves a full second book. [laughter] i'm not going to write it.
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the issue of genetic modified organism. wanted to talk about that is the technology is a great transgenic organisms extensively in the book but it don't go into the pros and con's and the pluses and minuses of genetically modified organisms. but in brief the one thing i would say is our sophistication in the integrate these increasing daily and that obviously raises unintended consequences in the greater biosphere your i'm actually less concerned about the unintended consequences on human health locally. i more concerned about the great unintended consequences and the biosphere at large which is a much, much larger conversation we could have for another time. but it is an important topic. >> we will not count that as a question. we will count that as a lead-in
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to another conversation. so we'll take two more questions. >> my question is almost identical to ms. i was going to ask your opinion of this, you probably -- i want to know your opinion of -- spent all right. >> i am a graduate student finishing up the national institute of health, and recently i've gotten interested in science policy. one of the questions that you asked was how much do these scientists who do besides talk to the policymakers? you responded something like the scientists talk science and the policymakers talk government, and they don't really communicate very well. but you did a great job and lots of other sites will do a great job of translating that really difficult science talk into understandable media. osha's one if you ever get the
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opportunity to talk to policymakers and participate speak with personally i do a lot. i'm in washington a lot. i've been to congress several times, to click on cancer. in fact, we screen part of ken burns film in congress. so i do. the problem is not, the problem is not that there isn't meetings spaces or meeting opportunities. the problem is the vocabulary is different. once the vocabulary becomes common, want to talk about the same thing, it becomes much more easy to have a conversation. heart of the effort here is to at least armed ourselves with the vocabulary so when you open the newspaper and someone says so much i to synthesize the human genome, at least understand what that means. what does it mean to synthesize the human genome, it would have a real conversation.
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so thank you for reminding us that that's the kind of effort that we need to have the vocabulary. >> thank you. >> last question. >> originally i'm from the czech republic to understand what it's like. [laughter] >> originally i'm from india so i understand. let's have a drink. [laughter] spin very simple question. your opinion, do you think in the future we will be able to find smaller parts? for example, identify genes that define happiness? since we are in senegal, genes with virtually? >> these are interesting a complicated question. 15 years ago someone would've said those are crazy questions. but 15 years later they are not so crazy questions. i talk about this in the book a lot ar arthur genes for temperament, personality, et cetera?
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almost always these things are very higher order principles as it were. tali in intersections between genes and environment. but do i feel that some of these evanescent qualities have some composed of genes? the answer would be us. out the we know the answer is yes? very, very detailed studies on identical twins separated at birth, famous a study which i talk a lot in fact. i interviewed one of the authors of that study for this book. these identical twins separate at birth, brought up in regular circumstances, sure surprising kind of behavior. they share personality traits that you wouldn't imagine what happened by random chance. they share preferences, anxieties. what does that mean? that means there must be things in the genome that predispose us to certain kinds of behaviors, templates, anxieties, et cetera.
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what's also interesting is if you look at not identical twins but siblings, that number falls dramatically. what does that mean? that means if you scatter genes around, you lose that effector it's a very artificial affect. it is simultaneously true of other elements in the genome that may govern more complex traits of human personality and it will be unlikely we can manipulate because there are multiple genes that are governing this. i make a distinction between idea that these are inheritable but they are not heritable. >> that's a great question. thank you very much. we are going to have to stop. i just want to say again, it's a fascinating book. don't be intimidated the fact that it is about science because
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you write come it's about people, it's about family. it's just that in a remarkably approachable way. and it's if they were dashed and it's a wonderful read and a great book. so it's been my pleasure. thank you. >> thank you. [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> booktv recently visited capitol hill to ask members of congress what they are reading this summer. >> first of all tanks to c-span for all you do on this front. it's very important, service he gave to the country. my folks are watching this.
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my kids will get a kick out of this. i hope they see their picture gummi. i've got a pretty extensive reading list over the next year. i thought i would start off with recommendation for folks, "prayers for people under pressure" written by a former member of the english parliament. i think little bit about pressure and at the i can a little something from him. second, new and, "troublesome young men" has to do with the rise of a small band of conservatives in the parliament during the churchill period, and kind of motivated, i'm a member of the house freedom caucus. we have 40 or 50 great folks that are trying to get the country back on straight, sal some fiscal problems. and just can't represent the people were closely, do what they want to do. i think this book will give me a little motivation there. next one, but time and i give it away but it is called 'uncivilization" by gregory
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copley. he briefed me on foreign policy when they just an amazing mind on foreign policy. and i learned so much i want to read some of his books. is subtitle is urban geopolitics in a time of chaos. maybe at first blush an unlikely source of grounding for international policy but his thesis is some of the uncertainty and instability and chaos we are sitting around the globe, which we are clearly seeing, is driven by the urban-rural split in our country. just with the growth of the urban cities, a little bit more detachment from the jeffersonian yeoman farmer and love of country patriotism and nationalism in the positive sense, and that maybe we need a little bigger dose


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